If you told me five years ago that I’d be moving to Nicaragua in 2012, I might have advised you to stop with the crazy-talk. You see, five years ago, my father-in-law frequently reminded me that I was the only one – out of four kids and their spouses – who had yet to visit his mission project there.
I had no desire to spend any amount of time in a developing country myself, let alone take the girls there. I wasn’t interested in their bugs, or heat, or any other negative idea I had about Nicaragua (and most of Central America, for that matter). And let’s be honest, I really wasn’t interested in their poverty or suffering either.
I mean, don’t we have enough of that here?
So we focused mostly on serving locally. We became licensed foster parents, and opened our home to what would become 17 children in need over a four-year period.
But thoughts of Nicaragua didn’t go away.
After much badgering, I finally agreed to a one-week trip over spring break in 2008, to visit the family mission project: the only free summer camp in all of Central America. “The camp is absolutely beautiful!” I was told. “It’s on an amazing fresh-water lake with breathtaking views of a volcano!”
Each of those statements turned out to be true, as did a few more: “You’ll be challenged in ways you never expected.” “Once you get a taste of serving abroad, you’ll have trouble staying away.”
“It’ll change your life.”
About six months after returning from that trip, we started making plans to go back. Only this time we sent out an email to all our friends, asking if – by any chance – anyone would want to join us. To our utter amazement, we took a group of 27 people from Harford County to Campo Alegría in June of 2009.
While in Nicaragua, I realized a few things about the initial reasons I didn’t want to go there. Yes, it’s hot, and yes, they have ants that are the Navy Seals of the insect world, but they also have a population where almost half live on about $2 a day. Two dollars.
America is the land of plenty. Even our poor have cable TV and access to resources only the elite of places like Nicaragua can even dream about. The US has the largest Christian population in the world. Out of the five million people in the world who classify themselves as Christian workers, less then 5% live in non-Christian nations. That number blew me away! So, if I want to obey Christ’s command to love my neighbors, shouldn’t I, therefore, go to a place where those neighbors don’t already have access to so many pastors, churches, and other Christian workers?
Upon returning from that first trip, we wondered what was next. We felt God calling us to ‘up the ante’ so to speak, but didn’t know what that meant. About a year later, we got our answer. We scheduled our second family mission trip to Nicaragua for Christmas of 2010.
Giving up the traditional American Christmas was difficult to sell to our friends – even some of our family – but we did take a group of 13 that December. It was an amazing and emotional trip, and one that – for two families – would serve as the impetus for a major move.
With each of these trips, our primary focus is to strengthen and bond families. The way we do that is two-fold. First, we take American families to serve in Nicaragua for 7-10 days. For many kids, their first missions experience is with a youth group. But we believe this life-changing event should happen not with a group of friends and youth leaders, but with parents and siblings. We’ve seen families uniquely changed for the better through trips like this, and want to give as many families as possible this opportunity.
Second, while in Nicaragua, we do whatever we need to, to just love those around us, while supporting the long-term missionaries in the country. Sometimes this means we make sandcastles with giggling children or find shoes for a barefoot kitchen worker. Other times it means we teach a mother how to clean a cut on the elbow of her young son, or hold an abandoned baby until feels loved. We may not be able to cure disease or feed all the hungry, but we can show love.
So after that Christmas trip, we began wondering how we could take more people to Nicaragua. Finances and work obligations make it difficult for us to personally take more than one trip a year. We decided the best way to enable more families to go would be for us to live there for a period of time. In March of 2011, we met with the only other family who had participated in both family mission trips to Nicaragua – the Izzos. We shared our desire to spend more time in Nicaragua and asked Jeff and Erinn to pray with us. They shocked us by saying they wanted to go with us, for however long we planned to go.
In August, we agreed to meet twice a month until the spring of 2012, to pray about spending a full year in Nicaragua. We had absolutely no idea how much our families and those plans would be tested. By the start of 2012, it looked like it would take a miracle to get us to Nicaragua again.
Thankfully, we serve a God who is in the business of miracles.
In April of 2012, we purchased one-way tickets to fly to Nicaragua on July 24. We enrolled the girls – who are really excited about this trip! – in an English-speaking Christian school. We sold our cars (amazingly fast). God’s provided a renter for our home in Maryland, and a fully furnished home for us to rent in Nicaragua. One by one, the pieces all fell into place.
Wyeth and I been blessed with skills and talents to earn a living anywhere with an Internet connection. We do not believe this is a coincidence. Instead, we’ve come to realize this makes us perfectly suited to live abroad, while still supporting ourselves. If the apostle Paul – who is frequently referred to as the greatest missionary to ever live – could support himself while on the mission field, we figure we might as well give it a shot.
While we have a few personal reasons for our year in Nicaragua – such as learning Spanish and experiencing a slower-paced culture in a city with a lower-cost of living – we have one ultimate goal: to strengthen and bond families (ours and those around us) in such a way that glorifies God and directs everyone involved to Him.
Come visit us!
To that end, we are arranging several trips to Nicaragua during the year we are living there. There are several family mission trips being planned through local churches, as well as some non-church-affiliated vacations with a purpose. We’d love to have you participate! Visit www.wendywillard.com/mission to learn more.
We need your help!
In addition, transportation expenses are high in countries like Nicaragua, with it costing as much as $400 each time we need to rent a bus to transports teams or campers – that means a single mission team might spend $2000 on vehicle rentals for one week. The camp already had one 15-passenger van. As of September 2012, we received over 90% of the $15,000 cost to purchase & repair this van. Can you help us cross the finish line? We also have monthly transportation costs that we’d love to have support for. If you’d like to contribute, tax-deductible donations can be made to Chop Point. You can donate online, or mail a check (with Nicaragua Vehicle Fund in the memo line) to 420 Chop Point Road, Woolwich, Maine 04579.
Finally, we covet your prayers for a safe and successful time in Nicaragua. We’ve have turned a recent photo of our family into a “prayer card,” in the hopes you might put it on your fridge or bookshelf, and perhaps pray for us when you notice it. If you’d like to receive one of these cards, please let us know!
Thank you for your support.